* Samsung launches 3D TV models in South Korea
* In exclusive 3D content deal with Dreamworks
* To boost 3D line-up to offer LED, LCD, PDP TV displays
* Aims to sell at least 2 mln 3D TVs in 2010
SEOUL, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), the world’s No. 1 TV brand, launched 3D TV sales in South Korea on Thursday, with an aggressive target as it seeks to defend flat-panel margins and gain an early lead in the emerging market.
TV brands are aggressively promoting 3D TVs in search of ways to raise blended selling prices and improve their product mix after millions of households over the past years bought flat-screen TVs for households’ living room, bedroom and even kitchen and bathroom.
Samsung, which competes with home rival LG Electronics Inc (066570.KS) and Japanese makers such as Sony Corp (6758.T) and Sharp Corp (6753.T), introduced three series of 3D models using light emitting diode-backlit LCD display for sale in the domestic market.
Global launches are due next month and Samsung plans to sell at least 2 million 3D TVs this year.
“Even at 2 million, it’s a conservative target and we are planning to create the market with aggressive marketing,” Kim Yang-kyu, senior vice president of Samsung’s visual display sales and marketing team, said at a news conference.
3D is a big bet for a television industry looking for the next big thing, but lack of 3D content, high pricing and the required use of glasses remain big hurdles for the new technology.
Research firms’ forecasts for the global 3D market vary between 1 million and 6.5 million TVs in 2010. That is a sliver of a total TV market expected to top 200 million units this year, according to data from DisplaySearch, but still the biggest growth area as prices fall sharply in the overall flat-panel TV market.
Samsung said it was in an exclusive 3D content deal with Dreamworks Animation SKG DWA.O and was talking to other studios, broadcasters and game developers for similar deals to boost offerings of 3D content.
“We have also developed technology that converts 2D content into 3D, and that will enable consumers to experience watching TV with an extra visual dimension even when 3D content is somewhat less available,” said Yoon Boo-keun, president of the visual display division.
The models introduced on Thursday are less than 3 centimetres thick, premium versions of its hot-selling LED-backlit LCD TVs with a 3D function that can be switched on and off.
Samsung is offering a 46-inch high definition LED-LCD TV at 4.2 million won ($3,642) and a 55-inch model at 5.8 million won in the domestic market, excluding the cost of viewing glasses.
For comparison, its 46-inch regular LCD TV that does not use LED backlight costs about 1.5 million won.
It plans to introduce super-slim 10 millimetre sets in the first half of this year and boost line-ups to support all displays including plasma display panels.
Digital 3D TVs, which use double layered images and special glasses to give viewers the sensation of seeing the depth of three dimensions, are set to become the next battlefield for top TV makers.
Samsung aims to sell 35 million LCD TVs this year, including 10 million TVs using LED backlights.
LG, which plans to unveil a full line-up of 3D TV models with new technology improvement in the second half, said late last year it aimed to sell 400,000 3D TVs in 2010 and 3.4 million in 2011. LG currently offers one 47-inch 3D TV, which is sold mostly to businesses due to the high price tag. ($1=1153.2 Won) (Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Ken Wills)